CHAIRMAN: Prof. Isaac Nguema
VICE CHAIRMAN: Prof. Emmanuel V.O. Dankwa
COMMISSIONERS: Mr. Robert H. Kisanga, Dr. Mohamed H. Ben Salem, Dr.
Vera V. Duarte Martins, Prof. U. Oji Umozurike, Mr. Atsu Koffi Amega,
Mr. Kamel Rezzag-Bara, Mrs. Julienne Ondziel-Gnelenga, Mr.
Youssoupha Ndiaye, Mr. Alioune Blondin Beye
||Peoples' Democratic Org. for
Independence and Socialism v. Gam, Comm. 44/90, 10th ACHPR AAR Annex
||IHRDA, Compilation of Decisions on
Communications of the African Commission On Human and Peoples’
Rights Extracted from the Commission’s Activity Reports 1994-2001,
at 104 (2002); Documents of the African Commission on Human and
Peoples’ Rights, at 559 (Malcolm D. Evans & Rachel Murray eds.,
2001); (2000) AHRLR 104 (ACHPR 1996)
 The complaint alleges that voter registration in the constituencies of
Serrekunda West, Serrekunda East and Bakau was defective because those
registering were not required by the law to give an address or
identification. It argues that there was no control over voter registration
since no documents have to be shown to the registration officer. The voter
may be asked his name and citizenship, but there is no requirement to
produce an address or compound number. Furthermore, the witness is not
required to identify himself. The complainant argued that the absence of a
requirement to produce an address or compound number makes it possible for
the voter to forge his right to vote in the constituency, or to vote several
 In the rural areas the registration of the voters and the voting
procedure itself are controlled by the headman, the registration officer,
representatives of different political parties, and village elders. In the
urban areas the control is only done by the registration officer, who does
not know the people. Without the street address or compound number it is
impossible for the registration officer to control the identity of the voter,
even though they must sign a form of registration and enclose a photograph,
because the signature could be forged and the lack of communication between
different constituencies could make it possible for the voter to register in
  The complainant argues that the registration by street address/
compound number is possible, since most urban areas in the Gambia have
street address or compound number.
 The complainant argues that, based on its observations of voter
registration, there is widespread fraud.
ACCORDING TO THE GOVERNMENT
 The government argued firstly that the case was inadmissible because it
could be taken through the courts to the level of the (British) Privy
 The complainant pointed out that the (Gambian) Elections Act, Section
22(5), states that the judgment of the Gambian Supreme Court shall be final
and conclusive; thus, appeal to the Privy Council is impossible.
 As to the merits, the state originally claimed that the Gambia does hold
free and fair elections.
 In the urban areas a form was signed and address / compound number,
occupation, constituency and photo, were included wherever possible. These
were checked by the registration officer both at registration and at the
elections, providing adequate protection against fraud. Likewise, in the
rural areas, the personal identification by the village headman took place
both at registration and at the elections.
 The state claimed that it is almost impossible in a developing country
like the Gambia to ensure control by street addresses / compound number.
Many dwellings in the Gambia, including in the urban areas, do not have
street addresses / compound numbers, but are registered in the names of the
owners. It is therefore impossible to make this requirement absolute.
 The state further argued that it is impossible to require showing of
identity papers at the time of registration and election as a high
percentage of the population does not have identification papers. It was not
before 1985 that a National Identity Card was introduced and now not more
than 50% of the population has been registered.
 In July 1994 there was a change of government in The Gambia. The
present government strongly condemns the claims of the previous government
that the streets of Serrekunda were not named with sufficient specificity to
permit making an street address a mandatory requirement for voter
registration. The present government calls this claim ‘inexcusable and
 The present government, by its ‘Admission of Communication No. 44/90
from the Peoples Democratic Organisation for Independence and
Socialism-PDOIS Against the State of the Gambia’ concedes that the
grievances expressed by the complainants are valid and logical. It expressed
its intent to change the current system to correct the present ‘anomalies.’
 The communication is dated 19 June 1990 The Commission was seized of
the communication at the 8th Session and the government of The Gambia was
notified on 6 November 1990 From 1990 to 1995, the Commission proceeded to
verify the exhaustion of local remedies.
 At the 17th session the communication was declared admissible on the
basis that exhaustion of local remedies had been unduly prolonged.
 On 20 April 1995 a letter was sent to the complainants and the Gambian
Government, stating that the communication was admissible.
 The Commission received a letter from the Attorney General’s Chambers
and Ministry of Justice of The Gambia, conceding that the grievances
expressed by the complainants are valid and logical, and that the present
electoral law is being reviewed with the objective of curing the present
 On 20 December 1995, the complainant was informed of this response with
the specification that if the Secretariat does not receive arguments to the
contrary before the 1 February 1996, the Commission would consider the
communication to have been resolved amicably.
 The PDOIS argued that it was beyond the jurisdiction of the judiciary
to order Parliament to change defective procedures and laws; thus, recourse
to the courts was not an option. The complainant alleged that, while the
Elections Act provides for objections to voter lists to be made before a
revising officer appointed by the Supervisor of Elections, the fact that the
voter lists posted did not include a list of addresses made effective
scrutiny impossible. The complaint noted that numerous letters had been
addressed to the Supervisor of Elections and the President of the Republic
as early as 1987 with no response.
 The Government noted that in July 1990, the complainant did file a
Notice of Objection and sent it to the Commissioner of Western Division. The
document was forwarded to the Revising Court. No action appeared to have
been taken by the court.
 On the basis of these facts the communication was declared admissible.
 Article 13 of The African Charter reads:
 Every citizen shall have the right to participate freely in the
government of his country, either directly or through freely chosen
representatives in accordance with the provision of the law.
 In 1994 there was a change of government in The Gambia. The present
government recognizes that it has inherited the previous government’s rights
and obligations under international treaties.
 The present government has a different view of voter registration. It
concedes that the grievances expressed by the complainants are valid and
logical. It describes that it is in the process of establishing an
independent electoral commission and has commissioned a team of experts to
review the present electoral law.
 The African Commission welcomes the acceptance of the complainant’s
contentions and the government’s stated determination to review the current
electoral law, in order to ensure that elections are regular, free and fair.
 FOR THESE REASONS THE COMMISSION
Holds that the above communication has reached an amicable resolution.
 Taken at the 20th Ordinary Session, Grand Bay, Mauritius, October 1996.